The Pelicans couldn't have started off their first playoff game in four years any worse. They were staring at a 28-13 deficit after the first quarter thanks to a dismal 5-22 shooting performance from the field.
In all honesty, this game can be told by one statistic: points in the paint. The Warriors started with a 12-2 banging advantage. At one point in the second quarter, the Pelicans reduced that deficiency to 16-14. However, to close out the first half, it ballooned back in the Warriors favor again on a 20-4 swing. At halftime, Golden State had a 36-18 overwhelming edge.
Naturally, when the Warriors resumed dissecting the Pelicans invisible defense in the second half, the #hottakes really began to fly.
New Orleans: One man team, and the one man isn't having a great game. And he has four fouls now.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 18, 2015
Disappointing really, but not unexpected. Some still choose to believe in a false narrative rather than the truth.
The Pelicans team we've gotten to know simply failed to show up on time. Their already questionable regular season defense was 10 fold worse in the first half. SOOOO many breakdowns, SOOOO many Warrior easy and uncontested shots at the rim!
However, that tune dramatically changed in the second half. The Pelicans played the Warriors to a draw of 25 in the third quarter, but slapped them down with a 33-22 spanking in the fourth. Care to know the points in the paint story for the second half? The Pelicans had a 24-14 advantage.
What really stood out in the game was just how much worse the Warriors were without Stephen Curry. They were 13 points worse when he was off the floor. Conversely, the Pelicans were just a -3 when Davis was on the bench. Now about that one man team garbage...
Although the Pelicans started off horribly and the defense was lacking for the entire first half, the Warriors didn't perform at an elite level neither. Just a quick glance of their shooting percentages should confirm this notion. Going forward, Pels' fans should be confident their team will play better; however, unless the defense improves by leaps and bounds, expect the Warriors to come out more focused on Monday.
The Pelicans started off scoring the first 4 points, but unfortunately that was followed by a 10-0 Warrior run. Monty wisely called a timeout, but it didn't help matters much. Nearly all of the Pelican attempts continued to be of either the difficult variety or from simply too far away from the basket (8 three-point attempts in the first 12 minutes) while the Warriors were busy making lay-ups.
To start the 2nd quarter, Norris Cole and Alexis Ajinca immediately made their presence felt by propelling the Pelicans on an 8-0 run. Regrettably, Klay Thompson decided to go on a 6-0 run all on his own. Regardless, the Pelicans stayed with it and reduced the deficit to a mere 5 points with 4:16 remaining of the first half.
However, like a flip of a switch, the Warriors seized control back on a 13-2 run to take an 18 point lead into halftime. It was just demoralizing basketball that proceeded a Monty Williams' timeout with just 2:18 left: Klay Thompson drilled a three and then Curry converted two And-1 opportunities.
Reportedly, the only positive to emerge from this terrible way to end a half?
Hey, less than a fortnight ago, the Pelicans came back from a 12 point deficit to beat the Warriors without the services of Jrue Holiday. With Evans' return out of halftime, the nerves will have subsided and the Pelicans might be able to go on a run?
No such luck. Ominously, Norris Cole started the third quarter. Four minutes of the game clock later, the bomb was dropped.
Tyreke Evans now ruled OUT for remainder of the game— Sean Kelley (@SeanKelleyLive) April 18, 2015
Despite the loss of one of the most important players, the Pelicans played the Warriors to a draw in the third quarter. Quincy Pondexter was the biggest reason why. He scored 10 points in the frame, but it was his final 5 that helped the Pelicans reduce a 25 point disadvantage to just 18 over the final minute of the quarter.
The Pelicans kept the ball rolling in the fourth quarter with another 7 straight points (and a 14-0 run overall) and Steve Kerr called a timeout less than 2 minutes into the final frame. With a precarious 11 point lead, he reinserted Curry back into the lineup and the Warriors immediately pushed the lead back to 17 points. Still, the Pelicans refused to quit.
Starting at around the 5 minute mark, Davis slipped on his cape. He would go on to score 18 of the Pelicans final 23 points. With 55 seconds remaining, the Warriors lead was whittled to 6 points. With 9 seconds to go, it was 4 points. The Pelicans played much better, but they had some assistance from their opponent. In the final 2:20 of the game, GSW missed 7 free throws.
- Anthony Davis started off the game ridiculously invisible (2 points, 0 rebounds in the 1st quarter), but he more than made up for it for the rest of the game.
Anthony Davis had 35 Pts in his playoff debut. That is tied for 5th most in playoff debut over last 40 yrs. pic.twitter.com/GRiHQTKztq— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 18, 2015
All those tweets that I got bombed with by Warrior fans about Draymond Green's defense? Yeah, next.
- Quincy Pondexter had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. He had the second highest number of field goal attempts with 14. According to his regular season splits against the Warriors, he's a fan of facing the number one seeded team. With these type of performances, I remain confounded by what the Pelicans actually have here. Should Q-Pon be a bigger part of the offense on a consistent basis? Is he capable and comfortable of such a role? We may get the chance to find out if Evans has to miss any time going forward.
- Eric Gordon did what he does best: make three's (4-7) Outside of that, a lot of his effort went to waste: 1-7 from inside the arc and 5 turnovers. With Evans missing most of the game, Gordon's results were understandable. However, it continues to hammer home he's only probably going to remain a 1-dimensional player against this very good defensive opponent.
- Norris Cole started quickly, sinking 3 of his first 4 shots. After that the well ran dry but his impact did not. His +/- confirmed this. Cole created a lot of offense for his teammates and did an acceptable job on defense with his energy.
- Poor Jrue Holiday had probably his worst showing since his return. Outside of several pretty dimes, he was unable to make an impact on either end of the floor.
- Dante Cunningham probably exuded the most consistent energy of any Pelican until Anthony Davis went hog wild down the stretch of the game. If Monty Williams wants to play small and Ryan Anderson isn't hitting his shot (he made his first one, missed his next five), Cunningham at the 4 makes sense because...
- Omer Asik's defense was the worst I've seen in a very long time. He swam in no man's land way too many times. His help defense was half-hearted, yet he wasn't able to keep Andrew Bogut off the offensive glass. The Pelicans can't (nor do I expect Asik will continue to flounder like this) stick with a recipe of not taking anything away.
- After the first quarter, the Pelicans had a 49.2 FG% for the rest of the game.
- Why did the Warriors score so many lay-ups in the first half? Terrible all-around defense. The on-the-ball defender had his arms down thus the Warrior had an unobstructed passing lane. A second defender, whose assignment was setting a screen, wasn't concerned with helping on his teammate's man. Lastly, the Pelican defender trying to fight through the screen was held up for too long of a time. Better awareness before the screen (ie. keeping one's head on swivel) would have greatly reduced the damage.
The Pelicans got punched in the mouth because they acted like the new kids on the block. The nerves were apparent as they played hot potato around the perimeter and were adverse taking it inside. Not all the shots were bad ones, but we know the Pelicans strive to play the game inside out.
Welcome to the playoffs. It happens to all those who make it here for the first time.
Huh. Interesting comparison from Curry about AD, talking about how he and the Warriors were nervous in Denver two years ago.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 18, 2015
In his post-game interview, Davis claimed he and the team felt more comfortable after learning what the playoffs were all about in the first half. With this now out of their system, the Pelicans will be able to start Game 2 on equal footing. Well, at least we can hope.
Tyreke Evans says in Pels locker room he "felt a little pop" in left knee after tangle with Andre Iguodala and will undergo MRI later today— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 18, 2015
Wouldn't you know it? An injury to a core member of the Pelicans reared it's ugly face in the team's very first game of the postseason. This time it appears to have set it's sight on the team's warrior, the Pelican who tries to play through any ailment or illness.
According to Monty's post game comments, Tyreke Evans suffered a new injury that came about when he banged knees hard at some point. Someone in the media had noticed Evans icing his knees yesterday, but Monty said that had nothing to do with today's injury. Pray on the results of the MRI Pels' fans!
Before Game 2, The Bird Writes will go into further analysis of this game, and more importantly, how the Pelicans should proceed, with or without Evans.